A theme we’ll come back to relentlessly when we reach the 00s: people assume reality pop talent shows are (or rather, ought to be) about talent, when in fact they’re about narrative. The records sell initially because we’ve accompanied the singer on a story whose ending requires that they sell: it’s what happens next that’s the problem. Of course, this has always been part of pop’s dynamics – Sonia’s career runs along similar lines, only without that pesky four months of television to sit through.
Stock Aitken And Waterman had always made music for everygirl: there was very little glamour in their female-fronted pop, the distance between the images of the stars and the teenagers they assumed were buying the records was deliberately tiny. But Mel and Kim and the Reynolds Girls had been didactic; Kylie was a star who played ordinary girls. It’s only now, with SAW’s fortunes at their zenith, that they are seen to let one of their audience make a record. Sonia’s entire hook (at the time) was that she was ordinary – determined and talented, but very much one of the listeners with a good enough voice to attract the attention of Pete Waterman in his DJ persona. As it happened, Sonia Evans’ background – though generic in one sense – wasn’t quite as unremarkable as the publicity pretended. She’d been at stage school since she was 8, and after the initial leg-up she found a niche recording oldies before a career in musicals and panto. They might as well have got Bonnie Langford in. But of course it suited Waterman to promote this everyday image, and himself as the man who could make a star out of anybody singing anything.
And there’s the rub: “You’ll Never Stop Me Loving You” is very thin fare. It’s not really the fault of Sonia, who does have an okay voice – a little fuller and smokier than Kylie, the obvious vocal model, though with no real presence beyond the belted “youu-ooo”s on the chorus. She doesn’t seem to have any interesting ideas about how to deliver the song, either, but then she’s not got much to work with: after some opening bars that nod frustratingly towards house music the ‘proper’ drums come in and the song slides into automatic. As usual, the title says it all: Sonia is all dogged persistence in the face of an unfeeling fella, and on the verses sounds positively perky about it thanks to those annoying high notes at the end of each line. Sonia approaches it with gusto but she can’t stop the record seeming flat, and even at the time this seemed like hubris on Waterman’s part – a man who’d come to believe the “Hit Factory” hype. It’s taken them almost a dozen number ones, but Stock Aitken And Waterman have finally got to the top with the sort of track unkind critics assumed they always made.